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Reboilers: -

1. Selection of reboiler type -

Many factors influence reboiler type selection. In the end, all these factors reduce to
economics. Every plant will weight the trade-off between these factors differently. No
one-size fits all selection exists. Major factors include: -

Plot space available

Total duty required

Fraction of tower liquid traffic vaporized

Fouling tendency

Temperature approach available

Temperature approach required

All these affect the configuration desired. The major configuration selections include:

Forced versus natural circulation

Tube side versus shell side vaporization

Once-through versus process recirculation

Single-shell versus multiple-shell systems

Vertical versus horizontal orientation

Stab-in bundles

2. Classification of reboilers: -
2.1 Kettle Reboiler
A kettle boiler consists of a horizontal tube bundle mounted in an over-sized shell. The liquid level is
normally maintained just above the bundle, either by automatic level control, or by allowing excess
liquid to overflow a weir at the end of the shell. Although often considered as a pool boiling device, in
fact here is a good circulation of fluid within the bundle induced by the density difference between the
boiling fluid in the bundle and the single phase liquid around the edge of bundle. The kettle boiler is
thus a form of thermosyphon.
Kettle reboilers are commonly applied when a wide range of process operations (high
turndown capability), large heat exchange surface, or high vapor quality is required .
Kettle reboiler is also called a submerged bundle reboiler. Installations include
column bottom reboilers, side reboilers, or vaporizers. Kettles are generally more
costly than other reboiler types due to shell size, surge volume size, and uncertainty in
the TMTD .
They are often used as vaporizers, as a separate vapor - liquid disengagement vessel is
not needed. They are suitable for vacuum operation and for high rates of vaporization
up to 80% of the feed.

Kettle reboiler: The tube bundle is immerged in a pool of liquid at the base of the
column in an oversize shell Kettle reboiler is also called a submerged bundle
reboiler. The height of the tube bundle is usually 40 - 60% of the shell ID.
The submergence of the tube bundle is assured by an overflow weir at height of
typically 5 - 15 cm from the upper surface of topmost tubes.

Advantages: -
Very stable in operation.
No limit to turn - down; an over-sized boiler presents few operational problems.
Differential expansion can be readily accommodated.
The required elevation for the base of the column is less than for a vertical thermosyphon.
The separation efficiency of the boiler approaches one theoretical stage.
Low heat transfer coefficients.
High capital costs (large shell(.
High vaporization rates (80%).
Vacuum operation.
Low pressure drop.
Large inventory of boiling liquid.
Large plot area.
Expensive shell.
Mechanical cleaning of the process side can only be done by removing the
bundle, and then generally only if square pitch tube layout is used.
Not suitable for fouling fluids.
Not suitable for heat sensitive materials as it has higher residence time.
Some of the following operating problems are commonly encountered with kettle
reboilers: -
When liquid level falls below the top of the bundle, unflooded tubes heat
vapor rather than liquid. Heat transfer suffers as the heat transfer coefficient is
lower in vapor than in liquid. It will also lead to higher temperature on the
exposed tubes, leading to metal over-heating. It is important to ensure that
the tubes are always flooded by liquid set by the overflow weir.
Sufficient disengagement space need to be provided above the tube bundle to
remove any entrained liquid droplets. Demisters can be used to improve
Poor liquid distribution in kettle reboiler will also results in problems as
previously described.

Heating Side: -
Accumulation of inerts can drastically reduce heat transfer, particularly in
steam reboilers. Acidic inerts such as CO2 can also cause corrosion. Inerts can
be removed by venting. The vents must be located at the end of the vapor flow
Adequate removal of condensate is essential to prevent flooding of the tube
surface. A submerged surface transfers sensible heat only and achieves a lower
heat transfer than condensing. Condensate accumulation can be due to:
undersized steam trap, dirty or plugged steam traps.
Loss of condensate seal: When this occurs, the uncondensed vapor blows
through the reboiler and out from the condensate drain line. This will reduce
heat transfer.
2.2 Thermosyphon: -
The boiling occurs inside the tubes in vertical thermosyphon reboiler and inside shell
in horizontal thermosyphon reboiler).
Advantages: most economical because no pump is required.
Limitations: not suitable for heavily viscous fluid; high construction cost for the
installation of the column base at suitable elevation to get thermosyphon effect; not
suitable for low temperature difference processes due to boiling point elevation
imposed by static head.
Horizontal thermosyphon reboiler. Verticalthermosyphon reboiler

A. Natural circulation Horizontal Thermosyphon

This is a very common type of reboiler. Horizontal thermosiphon reboilers are the
preferred reboiler type in refining applications. The process side is on the shell side,
and the heating medium is on the tube side. The boiling occurs inside shell in
horizontal thermosyphon. There is recirculation around the base of the column. A
mixture of vapor and liquid leaves the reboiler and enters the base of the column
where it separates .
Compared to the vertical thermosiphon reboiler, the horizontal thermosiphon reboiler
generally requires less headroom but have more complex pipework and plot space
making it more expensive to install and has a higher fouling tendency which leads to a
slightly lower availability (because of outages for cleaning).
Horizontal exchangers are more easily maintained than vertical, as tube bundles can
be more easily withdrawn .
They are generally better suited than vertical thermosyphons for services with very
large duties.

Most economical type for most application

Not suitable for: -

High viscosity fluids;

Vacuum operations (< 0.3 ba)

Column base must be elevated to provide hydristatic head: -

The greater the pressure drop the higher the ENTIRE column and auxiliaries must be
elevated above the ground level: -
Horizontal type requires less headroom than vertical but more complex pipework.
Horizontal type more easily maitained than vertical.

Beside sharing common problems with vertical thermosiphon reboilers, the following
are some operating problems experienced with horizontal units: -

Liquid distribution must be uniform in the shell, in particular when boiling a multi-
component mixture. Uneven distribution may result in uneven heating, localized loss
of lighter components, etc. Liquid mal-distribution can also lead to accelerated

Liquid entering at excessive velocities may impinge on the tubes and damage them.

Flow-induced vibration may occur with high shell velocities perpendicular to tube
spans, leading to tube failure.

B. Natural circulationVertical Thermosyphon

In vertical thermosyphon reboiler, the liquid circulation occurs due to density
difference between vapor-liquid mixture (two phase) in the exchanger from the
reboiler and the liquid through the downcomer to the reboiler.

This is a very common type of reboiler in the chemical and petrochemical industries .
Vertical thermosiphon reboilers are used almost exclusively in chemical applications ,
while the petrochemical industry is about 70% vertical and 30% horizontal. In vertical
thermosyphon reboiler, the liquid circulation occurs due to density difference between
vapor-liquid mixture (two phase) in the exchanger from the reboiler and the liquid
through the downcomer to the reboiler

Some of the common operating problems are:-

Excessive circulation occurs when reboiler sump level is too high and cannot be
lowered (e.g. the level is set by the top of the preferential baffle in the bottom sump).

Insufficient circulation is usually caused by plugging of the tubes, or insufficient

liquid head. This will result in poor heat transfer, and possible tube over-heating.

Surging (or "burping") may occur if the reboiler temperature difference is

small and column pressure is poorly controlled. When the column pressure rises, it
increases the bottom temperature. Boiling decreases or stops, and this cause the
bottom liquid level to build up and dumping will occur, and causing the pressure to
fall. This in turn increases the boiling and the pressure increases again.

Oscillations cause reboiler instability. This may be caused by a pressure drop

limitation in the reboiler outlet or outlet piping system. The generated vapour cannot
find its way out in sufficient quantity, and some accumulates as a pocket near the top
of the reboiler. Expansion of the vapour pocket can momentarily reverse the process
flow, leading to a drop in pressure, which in turn causes liquid to rush back in (the
"U-tube" phenomenon).

Thermosiphon failure caused by low heat fluxes. This is common at start-ups for
multi-component mixture with small reboiler temperature difference. If flow is not
adequately started, the reboiler may only vapourises off some of the lighter
components in the liquid and leaving behind a residue too heavy to lift or too heavy to

2.3 Forced-Circulation Reboilers

A. Forced circulation reboilers are similar to vertical thermosiphon reboilers, except
the pump is used for the circulation of the liquid and the hot liquid flows inside
column .

Usually arranged in a Unbaffled Recirculating Circuit unless there is a critical

temperature level beyond which the process material undergoes decomposition or
polymerization. If this is the case then a preferential type column draw-off design
would be recommended over the Unbaffled Recirculation design .
For sensitive materials, precautions should be taken in the design of fired reboilers ,
such that the pressure drop is reasonably low and the heat rate in the heater is such
that the film temperatures in the furnace tubes does not approach a temperature where
excess fouling, product decomposition, or polymerization can initiate. The main use
of forced flow reboilers is in services with severe fouling problems and/or highly
viscous( greater than 25 cp) liquids for which kettle and thermosyphon reboilers are
not well suited. Pumping costs render forced flow units uneconomical for routine

The liquid is fed by means of a pump. Forced circulation reboilers with vertical or
horizontal tubes boiling may be designed. Forced circulation reboilers are similar to
vertical thermosiphon reboilers, except the pump is used for the circulation of the
liquid and the hot liquid flows inside column. To calculate the heat transfer coefficient
it is generally assumed that, heat is transferred only by forced convection. The usual
method of shell and tube exchanger design can be used.
Advantage: suitable for viscous and highly fouling fluids.
Disadvantage: high pumping and maintenance cost; pump is required to circulate the
boiling liquid through the tubes and back into the column.

Forced-circulation reboilers are similar to vertical thermosiphon reboilers, except that

these units use pumps as the driving force for liquid movement.
A major consideration with these reboilers is the pump-system compatibility. Since
the liquid is near its boiling point, and liquid head is costly, the NPSH (net positive
suction head) becomes critical. Using an over-sized pump may result in the available
NPSH lower than required NPSH, causing pump cavitation.
When the process temperature and the heat duty are high, a fired heater is
occasionally used as a forced-circulation reboiler.
B. In a typical fired reboiler, fuel gas and/or fuel oil is burned in a furnace to heat
and vapourise the bottom liquid. An example is shown in the Figure below.
When using a fired heater, maintaining even distribution of liquid among heater
passes is essential. Uneven distribution can lead to fouling, metal over-heating, and
poor heat transfer. Having a proper pump selection to match the system is also

Predictable recirculation rate

High velocities
Low percentage vaporized per circulation
Suitable for:-
Viscous fluids
Heavily fouling fluids
Pumping costs: -
Small installations
High pressure drops (low natural circulation)
Vacuum operations

F. Internal Reboilers

Also known as stab-in reboilers or stab-in bundles, internal reboilers are another
special application of the horizontal reboiler design. The internal reboiler is usually
used where the process can be on the shell side and the reboiler surface area is small
enough to fit into the distillation column bottom sump. The process side is on the shell
side and the heating medium is on the tube side .
Boiling takes place in the pool of liquid at the bottom of the tower, the heating fluid
being inside the bundle of tubes. Since the boiling liquid forms froth, which may vary
in density, controlling bottom level can be difficult. This fact can makes this type of
reboiler less attractive, particularly in foaming and vacuum services. Applications
where internal reboilers are sometimes used include : -

Batch distillation: where the tube bundle can easily be fitted into the batch drum ,
and periodic cleaning can be easily accommodated .
Very low heat duty clean services: where column diameter is large due to other
considerations, and where the reboiler tube bundle is small.

There are three major types of reboilers: -

How do you select the basic reboiler system for your service?
What are some of the differences between reboiler types? How can we select a
reboiler for a new column?
Reboilers generate vapor to drive fractional distillation separation. In classical
fractional distillation services all the vapor to drive the separation comes from the
reboiler. (Alternate systems may use externally generated vapor, feed preheat, or
inter-reboiler systems). Proper reboiler operation is vital to effective distillation.

The most critical element of reboiler design is the selection of the proper type of
reboiler for a service. Most reboilers are shell-and-tube exchangers. Specific services
may use other specialized designs including stab-ins, plate-fins, spiral-plate and
others. The purpose here is not to go into design details of each specific type but
rather to examine the selection criteria that favor one configuration over another.
Since shell-and-tubes are so common, most of the discussion focuses on them but
some factors favoring other designs are covered as well.

Other types

Figures 1 to 4 show common types of reboilers. Figure 1 shows two horizontal, shell-
side boiling configurations. Figure 1A is a recirculating thermosyphon. Figure 2A is a
once-through thermosyphon. Figure 2 shows vertical configurations. Figure 2C is a
tube-side boiling configuration with once through flow and Figure 2D is a shell side
boiling recirculating thermosyphon. Figure 3E shows a kettle reboiler and Figure 3F
shows a forced-circulation reboiler. Figure 4G illustrates a stab-in bundle and figure
4H shows a forced-circulation, fired heater. Table 1 includes the major factors in
making an exchanger system choice.
Figure 1
Horizontal, shell-side boiling reboilers
Figure 2
Vertical reboilers
Figure 3
Flooded bundle reboilers
Figure 4
Stab-in and fired heater reboilers
Factor Favored types Disfavored types
Low bottoms product fraction Recirculating
compared to boilup Kettle
High bottoms product fraction
Once-through Recirculating
compared to boilup
Low relative volatility systems Recirculating
High relative volatility systems Once-through Recirculating
Large exchanger size or high
Horizontal Vertical
duty requirements
Small exchangers
Leaks hazardous or difficult to
deal with
Exotic materials Stab-in
Tight temperature approach Shell-and-tube
Solids present Plate-fin
Thermally unstable products Recirculating (no baffle)
Once through
Tight plot plan Vertical Horizontal
Ample plot plan Horizontal
High temperatures Fired heaters
Forced circulation
High heat fluxes Natural circulation
Flooded bundles